My Mastodon Experience

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

A lot of people are moving to Mastodon, which means many people have opinions about Mastodon.  I wished to share my own here because we’ve got to ask hard questions about our social media use and how it’s consolidated in a few hands.  Mastodon promises to be part of the solution.

First, though you probably know this, Mastodon is an open-source Twitter-like system made of multiple private servers.  Networked (federated) together by open protocols, you get the whole Twitter micro-blogging experience without central ownership.  People and servers can block various instances, which helps to (mostly) cut down on bad actors.  Other software and sites – many substitutes for Big Social Media – integrate into this “Fediverse” so it’s well worth exploring.

Me, I created a membership on the big server Mastodon.social, but plan to move to a specialty server at some point.  That’s one of the neat things – you can move memberships between servers.  I have no problem with Mastodon.social – I just want to find a community to be part of.

MY ADVICE: Just find a reliable server and open something.  Move later.

Speaking of support, most Mastodon servers are obviously private and privately funded.  Many have patreons, use Ko-fi, etc. for funding.  This is great as you (or your server owner) are independent, but it also means that you should be ponying up the money.

MY ADVICE: Join the Mastodon main patreon and fund them, and then fund the server you’re on.  Be part of the community.

Because there are many separate servers, Mastodon’s larger federated universe (fediverse) is a collection of connected communities.  This makes it more stable as there’s no centralization, but also I’ve found it cultivates communities.  Servers usually have a specific purpose to support an interest, community, industry, or geographic region.  Communities can self-regulate (or get blocked), people can find specific interests easier, and tighter bonds are created.

MY ADVICE: After you join, start following people and checking out servers to look for interests.  Be part of your community.

You have to cultivate your experience on Mastodon – which is good because there’s no algorithm trying to make you angry or get you to buy pants.  There’s no trending items being thrown in your face due to computations, and virality only happens due to people promoting stuff. Freed of the mathematics of engagements, you get out of it what you put into it.  Follow people, use lists, promote Toots, and employ (and search for hashtags) to get what you want.

MY ADVICE: Really explore the tools Mastodon has to manage your experience and employ them all.

Finally, I found you have to approach Mastodon with asking what you really want out of it*  One of the problems with Twitter was people were on Twitter as everyone else was on there.  Mastodon, with it’s many communities and people-driven connections, requires you to ask what your purpose is and find the best people, servers, and hashtags to reach it.

MY ADVICE: Ask what you really wanted Twitter for, what you want out of social media, and then approach Mastodon with purpose.  You might even find you were on Twitter “just do it” and have to do some deep analysis (and possibly therapy)

Is Mastodon worth it?  For me the answer is hell yes! Mastodon forced me to think of my goals, but then I found it was easy to find and build communities as the distractions of Twitter weren’t there.  Moderation was better than I expected because I expected none and though there are problems I’m at least seeing real discussions of real solutions people can implement.  It’s also nice to be part of something growing.

Plus freed of trending topics and the chaos of Twitter, I honestly feel more relaxed.  Like many, I think maybe I was on Twitter to be on Twitter more than I admitted.

See you on Mastodon.

Steven Savage

Back from the Holiday – Kind of

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

Hello everyone! You haven’t seen me around for awhile this holiday season. So what’s up with me?

My girlfriend and I got sick with a cold, which I suspect was RSV as it lasted over two weeks for us and involved sinus drainage. We tested for COVID repeatedly, and the symptoms were also very different. This pretty much turned the holiday season into sitting around being miserable and occasionally do something when we were sure we weren’t infectious.

It was not fun. I lost two weeks, so now my “plan for 2023” efforts are this month, not over the holidays.

I think there’s a weird lesson in this. My girlfriend clearly got this from someone we know or work with – and the people we know are very careful. What I suspect is that since everyone is careful with COVID, they may not be thinking about other stuff. If you feel draggy but didn’t test positive for COVID, you might write off other diseases – and we’ve got that RSV/Flu/COVID “Tripledemic.”

So, please if you at all feel unwell, avoid big gatherings even if you test negative for COVID or whatever you suspect you have. We’re having a pretty ugly disease season and we’ll probably have others.

So my holiday update was nothing much except watching Drawfee, reading, gaming, resting, and being annoyed.

But I’m back at it. As I noted some weeks ago I plan to slow down my projects in 2023 so I can catch up from the wildness of the second half of 2022. But as I rest who knows what inspiration will strike . . .

Steven Savage

Virality Banality

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

Over the years, the term “going viral” started to get on my nerves.  As I’m a writer, this nails-on-chalkboard-in-my-soul experience is common as “going viral” is oft a goal of writers.  We want tales of our books to “go viral” so they reach our audience – oh, and so we make money.  Despite the “positive” take on it, I kept finding it annoying.

I figured it out recently – and I’m glad to say three years of Covid-19 chaos was only a minor part of it for this hypochondriac.  However, it does involve viruses-as-metaphor – so let’s talk viruses.

A virus isn’t even a living thing; it’s a replication machine that uses living creatures to reproduce.  It has no reactions, no feelings, it’s not even a single-celled bacteria.  A virus is pointless – which is probably why they’re so scary – at least a bacterium is alive like you.

The idea of “going viral” as an author or artist gets to me as the idea is “you hijacked a bunch of people’s attention and got them to spread what you posted.”  The quality of your book or art doesn’t matter – at best, it’s an afterthought of whatever meme or clever marketing phrase you used.  Dross and brilliance, specialty work and mass appeal creations, the content doesn’t matter.

There’s a creepy implication to “going viral” that your work could be like a virus, and that’s laudable.  You can make your work perfectly calibrated to sell, create a perfect campaign, and get a bunch of attention – but there’s nothing there but a bunch of optimized math.  I’m unsettled by the idea of “virality” replacing creativity.

When you take a look at our media and social media landscape, you can see it’s gone in that direction.

What do I do with this knowledge of my opinions?  Mostly it tells me what I’m comfortable doing as an author to promote my works.  Partially it may tell me why some of my fellow creatives are unsettled by “going viral.”

But it also means I’m casting a far more jaundiced eye on marketing and social media, and I’m sure I’ll have more opinions to follow.

Steven Savage